By Alex Lippa
---- — ATKINSON — The town has a new elderly affairs director.
More than seven months after former police Chief Phil Consentino was fired as the town’s elderly affairs director, Dave Paquette was named recently by selectmen to run the department.
Paquette is a former Budget Committee member and a onetime candidate for selectman.
“(Consentino) put together a wonderful program and I’d hate to see it fall apart,” said Paquette, 62. “I’d like to do my part for the town and grow on what is already in place.”
Consentino was fired “for cause” by selectmen on Feb. 27. Town Administrator Bill Innes served as acting elderly affairs director since then.
Innes said Paquette’s Budget Committee experience was a factor in appointing him.
“The financial background of the department is one of the things we need to get under control,” Innes said. “He has a very good business sense and a good personality that will work well with the elderly affairs drivers and the seniors in town.”
Paquette will be in charge of assisting seniors obtain services and benefits which will improve their quality of life. One of those services is the transportation program, which takes up the majority of the department’s $43,000 budget. The program provides local transportation for seniors who cannot drive themselves to doctor’s appointments and on various errands.
He will be working on a volunteer basis, with no set hours.
“Initially, it will be just whatever amount of hours are required to do the job,” Innes said. “It’ll likely be around two or three hours per day, but it’s not a fixed amount.”
Paquette will not be working in the police station, where the department was previously headquartered.
“We are going to be moving it to the community center,” Innes said. “It will be close to (recreation director Noriko Yoshida-Travers), where a lot of activity for seniors takes place. When (Paquette) is there, it will allow him to interact with seniors more.”
Paquette said one of his first goals will be to promote more programs.
“I think most seniors are aware of our transportation program,” he said. “But there are senior programs through recreation and the library among others which I don’t think many are even aware of.”
Paquette’s hiring was applauded by at least two seniors in town.
“I think it’s a wonderful choice,” said Kay Galloway, 73. “Selecting Dave will end up being a real blessing for the town. He has a real head for figures and is knowledgeable about Atkinson.”
Alan Phair, a member of the town’s Elder Affairs Advisory Council, agreed with Galloway.
“He is someone who is budget oriented, but he also knows how to deal with people,” Phair said.
Innes said Paquette was one of only two applicants for the position. The other applicant was from out of town.
“I think being an Atkinson resident was critical,” Phair said. “I don’t think someone who didn’t know the community as well could bring as much to the table.”